carried him across a river of blood.
The fat in the slaughterhouse,
in the stone room
adjacent to the killing rooms,
would clog in the drain
and the steers' blood puddled
high enough for a young Tony
to need either hip boots
or a lift onto father's difficult shoulders.
Tony loves to tell the story:
"As a small boy I hugged a white butcher's coat
blotted red. By the end of the day
slick and greasy, more red than white
already, during the ride, foul and smelly
and I was right in it, almost joyful
and afraid especially of the butchers' eyes
as they turned from the knives and hooks
to my position on the boss's back.
He was their boss
not mine exactly, but
blame him not now for my imagination
then about bosses and papas and
different kinds of muscle than my own.
And what did I own really,
other than the lift and carry?
They bled the cattle
but clubbed the calves--
all to do with the taste of the meat
and young as I was, I studied it."